Fearful experiences passed on in mice families, study finds
A newborn mouse pup, seemingly innocent to the workings of the world, may harbor generations' worth of information passed down by its ancestors.
Researchers taught male mice to fear the smell of cherry blossoms by associating the scent with mild foot shocks. Two weeks later, they bred with females. The resulting pups were raised to adulthood having never been exposed to the smell.
Yet when the critters caught a whiff of it for the first time, they suddenly became anxious and fearful. They were even born with more cherry blossom-detecting neurons in their noses and more brain space devoted to cherry blossom-smelling.
The memory transmission extended out another generation when these male mice bred, and similar results were found.
Neuroscientists at Emory University found that genetic markers, thought to be wiped clean before birth, were used to transmit a traumatic experience across generations, leaving behind traces in the behavior and anatomy of pups.
The study, published online on Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, adds to a growing pile of evidence suggesting that characteristics outside of the strict genetic code may be acquired from our parents through epigenetic inheritance. Epigenetics studies how molecules act as DNA markers that influence how the genome is read. We pick up epigenetic markers during our lives and in various locations on our body as we develop.
Through a process dubbed “reprogramming,” these epigenetic markers were thought to be erased in the earliest stages of development in mammals. But recent research — this study included — has shown that some of these markers may survive to the next generation.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Defense chief says U.S. can fly over South China Sea
- Growth potential remains for online gambling
- Worries mount of unleashed ‘Taliban 5’
- Morgan settles lawsuit with Wal-Mart over crash
- IRS believes identity thieves are from Russia
- Nebraska lawmakers ban death penalty
- Fossils point to relative of ‘Lucy’ species
- Lawyer argues in New York court that chimpanzees have same rights as humans
- Charged Baltimore officers seek change of venue
- Early U.S. coins sell for $25M
- Exhibit reproduces painter Frida Kahlo’s inspiration